Some players work out better than others when they’re called up to take part in their local derby – but Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan was one of those who worked out very well.
Flanagan has been sitting around waiting for the chance to go out on loan, a chance to get some game time in a squad where other full backs have been higher up the pecking order than him, but injuries have seen him start two big games for the first team and he’s no longer available on loan.
The occasion can get to players when they’re playing in front of lifelong footballing enemies but Flanagan was cool, calm, collected and composed at Goodison, despite being asked to play on the opposite flank to the one he’s used to.
His manager was impressed with his performance: “Jon Flanagan was immense,” said Brendan Rodgers.
“A young kid from the city, given the chance to play in a derby game that will be on Sky Gold in about 30 years’ time, and given the chance because of his desire to put himself out there every day.”
It’s easy to forget how young Flanagan actually is. He made his debut two-and-a-half years ago and after dropping out of the first team picture it seemed like his senior Reds career might be short lived. But Flanagan doesn’t turn 21 until New Year’s Day, there’s still a lot of time for him to develop into a player that Liverpool can make good use of.
The obstacle standing between Flanagan and a long-term career at the club is a problem that a lot of young players face, especially at clubs like Liverpool this year where there aren’t as many first team games to play as in past seasons.
Managers don’t keep their jobs long these days, it’s asking a lot of a manager to put his faith in youngsters for the long-term good of the club when he’s expected to bring success in the short term. It means clubs buy – or borrow – more experienced players to fill squad positions that could be taken by their own academy recruits.
Having worked with youngsters throughout his career Rodgers is well aware of this and wanted to get Flanagan out on loan somewhere, as he’s done with a number of the club’s other young hopefuls. But after his showings against Arsenal and especially in the derby he’ll be staying put beyond Thursday’s loan deadline.
Rodgers said after the 3-3 draw at Goodison: “He needs to play football, but if he plays like he played today, he is going to get football.
The boss express surprise at the lack of interest from other clubs in getting the use of a player with Premier League experience, cost free: “It’s been remarkable, really, that we haven’t had any clubs come in to take him on loan.
“We will always facilitate the wages, but we have had just one club come in for him, and that was a League One club. He’s a young player that needs to play.”
Some clubs showed a bit of interest but in the end it’s worked out well for club and player: “There have been a couple of enquiries about him, but nothing concrete. I just felt that I needed to have him about, and in the end I needed him to play in the Arsenal game.”
With Jose Enrique out until the middle of February and Aly Cissokho having struggled with both injury and form Liverpool need a player they can rely on now. Glen Johnson has missed games through injury himself this season and Martin Kelly is some way short of being back to full fitness.
That player could be Flanagan: “He’s done brilliantly, and that gives me something to think about,” says Rodgers.
Liverpool have a busy period coming up and one way or another it could mark a turning point in Flanagan’s career. By the time he’s celebrating his birthday, the day the transfer window reopens, he might well have established himself as a regular.